The primary election for district attorney in Philadelphia is over, but the palace intrigue about a theoretical replacement for one of the winning candidates is just getting started.
Let’s explore how all that would work.
But first, a spoiler alert: A prime player in this possible political switch-aroo says it is a nonstarter.
Larry Krasner, a defense lawyer known for civil rights cases, won Tuesday’s seven-candidate Democratic primary.
Beth Grossman, a former assistant district attorney for 21 years, ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
The chatter by Wednesday was that Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker, a Democrat, has an interest in taking Grossman’s place on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Tucker, who previously spoke with U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, about entering the Democratic race for DA, chose to stay out of the primary.
Several things would have to happen in a relatively short time for any of this to fly.
District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat, is set to go on trial June 19 in federal court on charges of accepting bribes, stealing from an account dedicated to his mother's care, and misspending political funds on personal expenses at private clubs.
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond, who expressed concern last month about the largest district attorney’s office in the state's being run by a guy facing criminal charges, has set a swift pace for the case.
Williams, who has ignored calls to resign, could remain in office even if convicted. The state constitution would require him to resign upon sentencing.
If that happened, the Board of Judges — made up of all the Common Pleas Court judges — would have the power to elect a replacement to finish Williams’ second term, which ends in early January.
Here, the intrigue intensifies.
Tucker is, of course, one of those judges. So is Lisa M. Rau, Krasner’s wife.
The state deadline for candidates to withdraw from the general election ballot is Aug. 14. The deadline for political parties to nominate replacement candidates is Aug. 24.
Again, here comes the spoiler.
“Let me make this very clear: In no way, shape, or form am I stepping down,” Grossman said Friday. “I am a qualified, if not the most qualified, candidate.”
Still, Grossman said she had spoken about the scenario with Michael Meehan, chairman of the Republican City Committee.
“He told me Leon Tucker was thinking about running,” Grossman said.
Tucker, who in 2015 won a second 10-year term on the bench, did not respond to a phone call or emailed questions.
Meehan confirms a candidate switch is allowed under the state Election Code.
“I’ve known Leon for 15 years,” Meehan said. “Nobody on his behalf has reached out. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. It’s an intriguing possibility.”
Meehan, while intrigued, wondered how well a Democrat would perform as the Republican nominee. He specifically cited the Democratic-vote-rich wards of “the great northwest,” a section of the city where Krasner found strong support during the primary.
“The question is: Running as a Republican, would Leon win?” Meehan asked. “That’s a question Leon has to answer, because many of his supporters were in Mr. Krasner’s corner.”